Starting college is exciting and also nerve wrecking. No matter where you are coming from or what you do college is a big step and a big change. The first time living out of your parents’ watchful eye and fending for yourself. This can be daunting.
We spoke to Instagram’s thehappycoeliacx for her top tips on managing coeliac disease in college:
- Own it: Don’t be afraid to tell your housemates and new friends you have coeliac disease. Explain that it is an autoimmune condition which you will have to manage for life. You can tell people that there is no medical treatment and no magic pill that you can take, that coeliac disease is managed with a strict gluten free diet. You could mention foods you can or cannot eat and also the significance of cross-contamination and how that can affect your health. Many have heard of coeliac disease but don’t know the seriousness of it and how it can impact your day-to-day life. At the end of the day one of the best things about college is getting to know new people and their way of life and introducing people to coeliac disease is exactly that. (LINK to housemates article)
- Ask Questions: Always ask servers or canteen staff wherever you are, what are their coeliac options, what are their practices are to prevent cross contamination i.e. separate fryers. It may seem daunting at first, or even embarrassing to have to ask but it will prevent you getting glutened and feeling unwell. Kitchen staff and restaurant staff are always more than happy to help and answer your questions. If someone is offering you something to eat don’t be afraid to ask them what is in the meal or to see the packaging for the ingredients. Only eat something or somewhere you are 100% comfortable with.
- Going to a restaurant: One of the most renowned problems for coeliacs is eating out. Eating out is a huge part of socialising for college students but is also a huge source of anxiety for coeliacs. It can cause anxiety due to the fear of being glutened but also some people may feel they are a burden to their friends when they have to decide the restaurant that they are going to eat in. True friends will understand the importance of choosing a restaurant that will safely provide gluten free foods, so don’t be afraid to speak up with suggestions of restaurants which you can eat in when choosing where to go. Also, don’t be afraid to turn down someone’s suggestion if the restaurant does not cater for coeliac disease. Reading menus, reviews or calling the restaurant in advance will allow you to determine where is suitable to eat. You can also review the Coeliac Society of Ireland’s restaurant list. (LINK to restaurant list & eating out article)
- Snacks: It is a good idea to have the odd gluten free snack with you in case you find yourself unable to get something gluten free when you are out and about.
- Night life: Nights out and parties are a huge part of the college experience and student life. However, not all drinks or mixers are gluten free so you should check the Coeliac Society food list or app before you order a beverage. Also, be aware of the variety of ingredients in cocktails which may contain gluten. Ask in the bar to they mix taps as this can lead to cross contamination between drinks. (LINK to night out article)
- Don’t share: Don’t try someone else’s food unless you are certain it is gluten free, someone who does not have coeliac disease may not know about hidden gluten and so they may accidently tell you it’s gluten free. Also, avoid sharing bags of crisps or dips with people who are also eating gluten products as their hands can contaminate the products,
- Be prepared: Being prepared is the best way to avoid getting glutened. Having your kitchen prepared with your own utensils, labels and toaster, can reduce the risk of cross contamination. See our kitchen checklist for all the bits and bobs you will need. Having a snack packed for lunch in college can be handy
- Most importantly: Have a great time!